The Oscar race and politics are usually far more alike than anyone wants to admit, based more around popularity and savvy campaigning than merit, and often crowning as a winner someone or something that everyone can agree on but nobody actually loves. One other similarity between the Oscar race and the Presidential race? Everyone is constantly jostling to be the first ones to cast their votes. In the political realm, that means states like Florida, Iowa and South Carolina are passing laws to make their primaries even earlier in the season. With Oscars, that means critic's groups-- even supposedly legitimate critic's groups!-- are moving up their dates as well.

For years the National Board of Review, a shadowy group of old people with strange opinions, have been the first group to hand out year-end awards, generally at the beginning of December. Now the New York Film Critics Circle-- a group exclusive enough that they at least won't let me in-- has leapfrogged them, announcing today that they'll vote on awards on Monday, November 28. Yes, that's a full month before the end of the year they're supposedly voting on. Yes, it's hugely likely that there will be at least one film not finished in time to show them.

Sure, I gladly participate in that sense that Oscar season starts earlier and earlier each year by starting my Oscar Column in early September. But even when you prognosticate that early, you go with the assumption that it's a new season, and that there will be lots of things that will come out later in the year to surprise and wow you. Forget the facts of the release schedule, which often has movies coming out on December 31 to squeeze in time for consideration. How is a critic supposed to be able to see every movie flooding the theaters in awards season by the end of the year, much less a month beforehand? Much as I respect the critics in the NY Critics Circle, it seems impossible that all of them can actually see everything in time.

Does this affect the average moviegoer? I guess not really, unless you pay close attention to when those "Best Picture!" hosannas start showing up on movie ads. But if you have even a mild interest in awards season, this is an irritating and troubling turn toward voting-date brinksmanship that only further trivializes what's already a pretty silly process of awarding prizes to movies.

(Image via Konstantin Sutyagin /

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